I’m a dietitian. Nutrition is my job, not my life. Sometimes those lines get blurred.
The space between knowing a lot about nutrition and thinking about it 24/7 is a slippery slope. For me, the latter isn’t healthy or happy, but sometimes the former makes it difficult to step away. I’m happier when I’m not ticking off servings of fruits and vegetables on an imaginary checklist in my head, counting calories, or worrying about some extra sugar in a container of yogurt that I bought on a whim.
At the same time, food is something that gives me (and many people) a false sense of control. Focusing on controlling serving sizes, calories, etc. has crept back into my life over the last few months. It’s annoying and frustrating. I’m happier when I have brain space for things other than nutrition. Some days I find that it’s hard to escape because my job is about food.
All of this is to say, I am a dietitian, but I’m not a perfect eater. I don’t recommend dietary restrictions lightly. I am gentle and careful when I talk about weight; I prefer to avoid talking about it if I can. I don’t want to think about food and nutrition all day. This is because I’ve experienced first-hand how damaging restrictive food rules, focusing on a number on the scale, and being a human calorie calculator can be.
So, below are some gentle reminders that I’ve needed to hear recently. These go out to my fellow nutrition professionals…and anyone who eats food.
I don’t eat “perfectly” just because I’m a dietitian.
Yes, I am a dietitian. I am also a human. I am not perfect. I don’t eat perfectly, and that’s how it should be. Please don’t make a joke or rude comment about how I ordered the burger instead of the salad. Please don’t make a joke or rude comment about how anyone ordered the burger instead of the salad. The foods I choose to eat are not reflections of my knowledge or skill set as a dietitian, nor are they a reflection of anyone’s value or worth as a human being.
No singular food is going to make or break someone’s health.
Someone can eat pizza, cheeseburgers, and ice cream, among other foods deemed “unhealthy,” and still be healthy. Someone can eat strawberries, broccoli, and avocados, among other foods deemed “healthy,” and still get sick or have health conditions. Food can surely support your health, but it’s not a magic bullet, and simplifying health down to the foods a person eats or doesn’t eat is just plain wrong.
No, I’m not judging people for their food choices because I’m a dietitian.
People can choose to eat or not eat a food for whatever reason they wish. They don’t have to explain that to anyone — including me. Feel free to eat the bacon, put the sugar in your coffee, or choose the craft beer instead of the light beer. I will not be a part of any conversation judging someone for their food choices. I talk to people about changing their diet only if they’re my patient, and even then, I probably won’t tell them to stop eating their favorite foods.
How much I exercise isn’t an indication of my value or worth as a dietitian, nor is it an indication of anyone’s value or worth as a human.
I like exercising, but I don’t do it every day. I prefer not to spend more than an hour doing it. I think that’s how it should be.
I won’t congratulate anyone for losing weight.
Yes, I talk to people about weight and health as a part of my job, but I don’t congratulate people for losing weight. I know that weight loss is not always a good thing. I know that commenting on someone’s weight or size is always a bad thing. Instead, I usually ask them, “How do you feel?” or “What brought that on?”
Nutrition is about so much more than calories.
I could probably give you a pretty good estimation of the calorie content of every food you eat, but I don’t want to. I’d rather talk to you about how your food makes you feel, actionable steps to reaching your health goals, and helping you break free of restrictive food rules that aren’t serving you.
Nutrition is my job, not my life.
If I don’t want to talk about it outside of work, I don’t have to. Don’t take it personally if I challenge your diet talk or quickly change the subject. There are countless other more interesting topics to discuss.
To anyone out there who has gotten this far, I recommend that you think twice before commenting on how people eat or exercise or how much they weigh. Please, let’s talk about something else. Anything else. Please, let’s leave those conversations about nutrition for a time when they’re indicated — at an appointment with (hopefully) a dietitian.